Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Open to suggestions...

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. 
(Acts 20:7-12 ESV)

What do we learn from this story in Acts 20?

Atonement & all it means (part two)

Objective ideas on God's Character

Understanding the very nature of God allows us to see why some sort of atonement was necessary in the first place. From the start we need to acknowledge these attributes of God's nature are permanent qualities.  They don’t change and they can't be added to, because they have always been who God is.  God's character exists outside of our own perceptions of who he is. They are what are known as objective qualities. It doesn’t matter what we think, or how we choose to interact with God, we cannot change who God ultimately is. Our belief has nothing to do with it.  These objective attributes give us a baseline to refer back to on the theology of atonement.

The Greatness of God
  • Spirituality
Firstly God is a spirit so he has none of the limitations we associate with a physical body. Exertion, exhaustion, obstacles, injury or space don’t have any affect on God. All through the Bible God is continually contrasted with the other gods of the people who are all made up of idols (physical objects which are worshiped). God cannot be contained within those objects.
  • Personality
He is not a nameless deity who is disconnected from his creation, because God himself tells the people his name. The Old Testament is filled with the words of God which characterise his personal side, we see emotion in the forms of love, warmth, anger, sadness and resolution.
  • Life
The very name Yahweh – I AM – gives an inherent characteristic of being alive and living. This is again constantly in contrast with the other gods of the other nations in the Old Testament. They are dead idols, inanimate objects.This life of God is also completely self reliant. We need him to live, but He doesn't need anything but himself. In himself he is completely functioning, completely fulfilled and totally resourced.
  • Infinite
Because his life is constant with everything he needs, God exists infinitely.  God isn't old, he is simply the same as he has always been, and always will be.  Time is unrelatable to him.  So is location, he is omnipresent - able to be everywhere at once. We know there is nowhere we can hide from God.  God's wisdom is also infinite - He knows everything (omniscient). God is also omnipotent - his power is completely infinite.
  • Constancy
Although God has existed infinitely, he is also completely unchanging.  He is the same now as he has always been, and will always be.  God cannot change because his nature is already perfect (you can't improve, learn or grow from perfection to something better).

The Goodness of God
  • Purity
God is completely good. His holiness means he is totally set apart from anything evil in the world.  He cannot tolerate anything which is not good.  His righteousness displays how he must interact with other beings, because he is holy he must apply that holiness to his relationships, insisting that they are righteous. He also holds all of his creation accountable to his purity, and in that he is completely just.  His justice shows that the laws received by Israel in the Old Testament are an honest reflection of God's character and his purity.
  • Integrity
God is 100% genuine. He is who he says he is. We can know all these things are correct attributes of God because he says these things about himself in his Word and he is genuine. God is also truthful so we can believe all he says because what he says is always true. Finally, God is faithful. God will always do what he says he is going to. He keeps his promises.
  • Love
In many ways this is the glue that holds all of God's other characteristics together. His love means that He is genuinely concerned with our welfare. Why else would he bother to make promises to us in the first place? His love is completely unselfish. The cross is our greatest example of this, and the very reason he would choose to offer atonement.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Atonement & all it means (part one)

I've had to define and document my core views on the doctrines of the Christian faith as part of my registration for Queensland Baptists. This has had me thinking about these issues that are the very core of our faith. So I plan on writing a few posts over the coming days/weeks which look at this central issue of 'atonement' and then the reverberating effects it has on what we believe and how we live.  Erickson in "Christian Theology" highlights the importance of gaining an understanding of the atonement.
In the atonement, we come to a crucial point of Christian faith, because it is the point of transition, as it were, from the objective to the subjective aspects of Christian theology.  Here we shift our focus from the nature of Christ to his active work on our behalf; here systematic theology has direct application to our lives. The atonement has made our salvation possible... In the doctrine of the atonement we see perhaps the clearest indication of the organic character of theology, that is, we see the various doctrines fit together in a cohesive fashion. The position taken on any one of them affects or contributes to the construction of the others.  Here the doctrines of God, humanity, sin and the person of Christ come together to define the human need and provision that had to be made for that need.  And from our understanding of these other doctrines issues our understanding of the various facets of salvation: our being given a righteous standing in God's sight (justification); the instilling of spiritual vitality and direction into our lives (regeneration); the development of godliness (sanctification)...
So this is just an introduction into the idea of the topic.  I hope to break it down a bit more over a series of posts.  Simply put the term 'atonement' refers to Jesus paying the price for our wrong doings. His actions on the cross we atoning because he substituted himself into a punishment we deserved and could not avoid.

The importance of all this in a theological sense is that we need to take what is objective about God (the things we can't change no matter what we believe) and then through Jesus' actions apply them to the subjective theological ideas that impact our lives.  Hopefully these posts will help us understand the importance of what Jesus did, but also show us how it continues to effect the way we live each day.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday morning focus

In that day mankind will cast away
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?
Isaiah 2:20-22

A little cryptic, but it highlights the glory of who God is.  There will come a day when all man-made idols are blown away by the presence of God.  All man-kind, no matter if they follow the Lord or their own idols will suddenly realise how great God is. But that day will be the day of judgement. And for many it will be too late.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Considerations on Baptism

This is something that's been on my mind a bit lately.  I have had numerous discussions with people about Baptism. Some coming from teenagers who have grown up in the church and it feels like a natural progression of their faith. Other's who seem to not think they're good enough for it, even after professing a faith.  Then there are some of the mid-week walk ins who want to be baptised for so many different reasons, they need protection from spirits, or they have surgery coming up and want some 'help from God'.  In these cases where there's no apparent understanding of what faith in Jesus really means I find myself sharing the Gospel and trying to show how intrinsically baptism is linked with that.  I think in most cases the people leave my office ready to find someone else in another church who will just give them what they want.

The wrestle I've really been having though is those who do profess a real faith. Should I just fill up the baptismal and get dunking or do we nurture that person with some classes and teaching over time to ensure they understand what they're doing?  I was very happy to be able to watch this video from The Gospel Coalition today. I'm glad I'm not the only one facing these questions.

Monday, 23 July 2012

From Inside the Theater

The shooting at the screening of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado was a horrible thing.  But here is a blog post from someone who was inside that cinema when the man started shooting.  Marie gives some good insights into God's actions inside that theater, and how he works in our lives when humankind screw it all up.
So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter. In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Read the rest of this amazing article here, or go view the blog A Miniature Clay Pot.

We've been having this discussion a bit at dBay, does God cause bad things to happen to help forward his own plan and agenda?  I don't think so no.  I really feel that it is only the sinful human who can do something that evil (especially in the case of the Colorado shooting). God didn't orchestrate that shooting so that Marie would have this amazing insight into who her God was.  If this motivates one of her daughters to grow up and use her life as a missionary in Africa... God didn't cause the shooting to motivate that.  The simply fact is that God is sovereign... 100%!! He is in control of everything so even when humankind go and do something evil God doesn't loose control. He didn't want the evil to happen, he didn't cause it... but his plan is still perfect and he can use anything to motivate, focus and encourage his people to act.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday morning focus

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
"I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner's manager,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand."
Isaiah 1:2-3

Sometimes we are just too self aware and 'smart' for our own good.  It makes us so self seeking and we forget who our creator and master is.  Ox and donkey's do a better job of that than we do.  Kind of brings you back to earth huh?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


"God will give us absolutely anything--unless it's not what's best for us." Trip Lee

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Concept of Change

We really are creatures of habit aren't we? We may not openly admit this, or even consciously be aware of it, but when we take a good hard look at what we do day in and day out we have to acknowledge that we find ourselves a routine we are comfortable with and very rarely deviate too far from.

For me the past 6 months has been a total shake up of what I was comfortable with. Moving from one church to another, into a role of leadership, I found myself having to fit in with another community's idea of 'normal' and 'comfortable'.  To be honest I instantly wanted to change this environment to something that I was familiar with, something I had been comfortable with for so long - but obviously that was not an option as the people I was with now were happy where they were and would find my personal idea of the ideal community environment different and uncomfortable.

I'm still not comfortable - yet having observed the dBay idea of 'comfortable' I can see that there are some very good aspects of what they do.  I can now see that each community has a unique DNA or core structure to what it does.  Messing with that is dangerous.  That being said, as a leader of this community, especially as the one given the responsibility to minister to the younger generations I still see the need for change in the way we do things.  Those changes though aren't to reflect what I was comfortable with elsewhere, now I see how change can come about to enhance the local DNA of the group to better minister to young people.

That change is still somewhat painful however. We get so comfortable with where we are that we loose sight of how effective our ministry is.   Getting comfortable and taking out eyes off the ministry, off the very mission Jesus gave the church is very dangerous.  I feel even more dangerous than the risk of implementing change. I really believe that's where we need to be open to people coming from outside to give us their opinion and ideas, because they are not caught up in our comfort zone.  At the moment I still feel like one of those outsiders... but now one who has been with the community long enough to understand and sympathise with it's DNA.  In a sense I feel in the right place to implement change, but I am still scared of ending up with my head mounted on a wall.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Stand up and be a hero

Here's the video from last night's service. The road may be tough but at some point God is going to ask us to stand up for him.  Eventually the joy and celebration will be magnificent!


Be Strong and Courageous

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5-9 

This was the memory verse 187 people all memorised last week on TeenStreet. Over the past few weeks many people within our congregation have faced different challenges. From sickness to grief, from destruction to uncertainty; there have been big trials to be faced. In many ways we stand like Joshua did, before a land flowing with milk and honey, but filled with giants who need to be overcome. Through Jesus we have been given peace with God, our own spiritual promised land. Yet because we still live here on earth we face trials and giants of many kinds.

That means there is great comfort to be had from our camp memory verse. For all the days of our life God is with us, and nothing will be able to completely overcome us. The battle against giants may be hard, but God promises us he will be with us, and if he is with us we know that eventually we will be victorious. Our responsibility is to be ‘strong and courageous’. We’re told that three times just in these verses—and why shouldn’t we be strong and courageous!? If God’s promised no one will be able to stand up against us, shouldn’t that give us all the strength and courage we need.

Yet as humans (and we see it especially in the example of Israel throughout the books of Exodus, Joshua and Judges) we forget God’s promises so quickly. We see the giants, or their walled cities, or whatever trial it is you are facing. And very quickly we forget God’s promise as they appear overshadowed by the struggles we face. We act scared and timid instead of strong and courageous. However, this memory verse gives us the answer to our human reaction. Joshua is told to meditate on the Word of God day and night. When we find ourselves meditating (not simply reading) the Word of God we are encouraged again and again by His promises. It is much easier to remain strong and courageous when you are constantly focusing on the promises God has made, and the examples of what God has done.

Serving God is the way to be ‘prosperous and successful’ - following His ways is always best - even amidst what seems hard to bear. So whatever you are facing this week, be strong and courageous, follow God and prosper!!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Settling an issue.

This has been a quote that has 'eerked' me for quite some time.  It's attributed to St Francis of Assisi and is as follows
"Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary."
The quote has always bugged me because Jesus' call to the church was to go and preach the Gospel. There is an inherent use of words when preaching, or proclaiming (either is a correct translation of κηρύσσω [Mark 16:15]); so it always felt strange when someone tried to tell me that when I preach the Gospel by my actions people will be more inclined to accept it.

An article I read on The Gospel Coalition this morning settles the issue for me.  For it seems St Francis never actually made this remark. And himself had quite a high view of preaching the Gospel.

None of his disciples, early or later biographers have these words coming from his mouth. It doesn't show up in any of his writings. Not even close really. The closest comes from his Rule of 1221, Chapter XII on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching: 
 "No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds. "
 Essentially, make sure your deeds match your words. While there's a nice and good sentiment in the statement---be sure you live out the grace and truth of the Gospel---the notion as it is typically presented is neither practical, nor faithful to the Gospel of Christ. It does not align with St. Francis' own practice...

Our man clearly spent a great deal of time using his words when he preached, "sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors. In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box or up steps in a public building. He preached to . . . any who gathered to hear the strange but fiery little preacher from Assisi." He was sometimes so animated and passionate in his delivery that "his feet moved as if he were dancing."

Read the rest of the article here. We should be careful when quoting someone to make sure that it is actually what they said.  St Francis has been labeled quite widely, within the church, as saying something that does not line up to the evidence in his life or ministry - that's a problem for preachers today!

Friday morning focus

Praise the LORD!
 Praise God in his sanctuary;
 praise him in his mighty heavens! 
 Praise him for his mighty deeds; 
 praise him according to his excellent greatness!
 Praise him with trumpet sound; 
 praise him with lute and harp! 
 Praise him with tambourine and dance; 
 praise him with strings and pipe! 
 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
 praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 
 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! 
 Praise the LORD! 
(Psalm 150 ESV)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Introduction to Exodus

We're beginning preaching through the book of Exodus this week at dBay Baptist.  I've been reading up, and here's an interesting introduction to the book from Alec Motyer.
Abraham and his ever-expanding family were uniquely favoured people. He had known the call of God (Gen 12:1), the divine promise of innumerable descendants and land to live in (Gen 17:5, 8).  His family, too, had enjoyed this favoured spiritual status with its good earthly prospects (Gen 17:7-8).
At the opening of the book of Exodus, Abraham himself was, of course, long dead (Gen 25:8), and his family, now organized under the names of the twelve sons of Abraham's grandson Jacob, was resident in Egypt.  Over the years it had expanded considerable and enjoyed the good life under the patronage of Joseph, Pharaoh's deputy (Gen 41:39-46).  With the death of Joseph and a change of government, however,  the good times we over (Exod 1:6, 8).  The Egyptian authorities had become pathologically nervous about this increase in the immigrant population and determined, first, on a policy of persecution and then ethnic cleansing and genocide (Exod 1:9-11, 22).
What had become, then, we might ask ourselves, of Israel's uniqueness, their favoured position before God, the promises made to Abraham and the prospect of their own land?
These are good questions to ask, and exciting ones to explore.  For we learn God is always good for the promises he makes. Yet we have responsibilities which we don't always keep. But, as in the case of the Hebrews in the start of Exodus, sometimes we find ourselves in tough situations through no fault of our own. Where is God in those times?  What can we do?

I'm looking forward to expanding all this through our sermon series.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

TeenStreet Review Video

I think this video from day 3 really gives you a good idea of what goes on throughout TeenStreet.


TeenStreet Reflections

It is always a tough week for a cabin leader.  You're always on the go, always considering how things are impacting the continuity of your group, and always wondering how you might communicate the Gospel just that little bit better.

I'll admit I don't feel I did as well as a cabin leader as I have in the past.  I struggled to build relationships with the boys in my cabin.  I hadn't really met any of them before and found it hard to connect with them.  It was hard to motivate them to do much at all.  I feel the WEC camps of old had a much better structure to motivate cabin unity and action - maybe I just haven't found the right technique moving over to the TeenStreet camp structure.

Then halfway through I got sick... really sick! And my cabin had to function without me (since I was shaking and shivering under a mountain of blankets in my bed) and my co-leader had to take over all responsibilities. I think that really started to pull the group together - I had constant offers of help from all the boys, and when I finally got myself out of bed they were always there ready and willing to carry things or just help me get from one place to another.  They then started doing those things for each other as well, then conversations started going deeper and we were really able to nut out some of the issues facing 16 year old guys in the world today.

Then on the last day (seemingly from nowhere) came the motivation to perform a memory verse - the boys worked hard and that night I think we delivered the best verse of the camp.  Again I need to be honest and say I was quite surprised by this group of boys.

Maybe it had something to go with the messages given over the week. This idea that God will use us if we offer ourselves to him. That he's given us passions, and that it's those passions he will use for his work. They were good concepts.  I just don't know how well they were grounded to the Scripture we were using. Yet the message seemed to be received by the young people well so I pray it provides a harvest of Gospel work.

As far as dBay goes, I think it's too early to see the effect on our youth.  I know those who went had a great time, and over the next few weeks I'm hoping to catch up with each personally to see what God did in their life on camp, and how that's changed the way they look at things now they are back home.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Shhhh time

Something that has become quite an integral part of TeenStreet is Shhhh time. After the main meeting each morning there is half an hour where no one talks to each other. There is no noise at all as everyone - campers, leaders and service team - all find a place on their own, sit, and reflect on what God has been saying to them.

Leslie Dam is secluded enough that for this entire time all you hear is the sounds of nature. It is amazing 200 people can be so silent. It is a testiment to the power and intimacy of God that he can interact with each of us so individually and personally.

Wherever you are today, maybe you need some Shhh time. Don't plan anything... or take a devotional book... just sit in quiet and ask God to speak to you. He may give you a passage to read or just want to you take the time resting in him.

Learn from the 200 people on this camp... God speaks to each of us.

(posted from Samsung Galaxy SII)

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